For this week’s Made in Arkansas, AY About You is featuring Sweet Freedom Cheese, Arkansas’ first cut-to-order cheese shop.
In 2012, Jessica Keahey found herself dissatisfied with her career as a consulting engineer.
“I had gotten my degree in engineering, but I just knew it wasn’t my passion,” Keahey says. “So I started looking for something that would give me purpose and be fulfilling. I wanted to find a way to give back to my community.”
Keahey eventually enrolled in cheesemaking classes, and the experience changed her life. She became an official Cheese Professional, which is a certification from the American Cheese Society. Sweet Freedom Cheese opened its first brick and mortar shop at the 8th Street Market in Bentonville in 2018.
Employees at Sweet Freedom are called Cheese Mongers, and they’re experts on the selection. They know everything about Sweet Freedom’s 100-200 rotating collection of cheese varieties. Whether a customer needs cheese for a charcuterie board, a fondue, or a casserole, the Cheese Mongers will help them figure out exactly what they need. The shop even has a “try it before you buy it” system, so customers can taste a sample of their cheese prior to buying.
Sweet Freedom also sells an assortment of products to pair with their cheeses. They offer everything someone might want to include on a cheese board, including cured meats, nuts, and dried fruit. They even have a curated selection of wines and beers to pair with their cheese. They also sell gift baskets that can be designed as corporate gifts or just to send a friend—the perfect socially distanced gift, according to Keahey.
Keahey chose the name Sweet Freedom because she found her own freedom through her passion for cheesemaking. The shop’s motto is to “Do Gouda,” and that philosophy applies to everything from the quality of their cheese to having a positive impact on the community.
“Sweet Freedom is about me finding purpose and my sweet freedom in finding joy in what I’m doing with my life,” Keahey says. “And then leveraging the company to do good in the community.”
One of the ways Sweet Freedom gives back is through their education programs. They offer both cheesemaking classes and tasting events. Sweet Freedom includes the supplies for both, whether that is ingredients or a curated selection of cheeses to try. These programs have continued virtually since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. Customers can pick up their supplies from Sweet Cheese and learn how to make cheese from the comfort of their own home. Although Keahey misses leading classes in-person, she still sees the silver lining; she has been able to partner with other business owners from around the world to lead these classes, from cheesemakers in New York to winemakers in South Africa.
Although Sweet Freedom Cheese does not ship its products, the shop does offer curbside pickup and accept orders through the website and over the phone. Keahey also recently began a satellite pick-up spot with Rockin’ Baker in Fayetteville.
Sweet Freedom Cheese
South Market Food Hall
801 SE 8th Street